This Henri Nouwen quote arrived in my mailbox, and it reminded me of the call to a life of choice, discipline, and living by the guidance of the Spirit, in community with others struggling to do the same…
With the Lenten season approaching, and after the last few months characterized by a lack of discipline and not always making the best choices, it is just what I need to hear.
“When we look critically at the many thoughts and feelings that fill our minds and hearts, we may come to the horrifying discovery that we often choose death instead of life, curse instead of blessing. Jealousy, envy, anger, resentment, greed, lust, vindictiveness, revenge, hatred … they all float in that large reservoir of our inner life. Often we take them for granted and allow them to be there and do their destructive work.
But God asks us to choose life and to choose blessing. This choice requires an immense inner discipline. It requires a great attentiveness to the death-forces within us and a great commitment to let the forces of life come to dominate our thoughts and feelings. We cannot always do this alone; often we need a caring guide or a loving community to support us. But it is important that we both make the inner effort and seek the support we need from others to help us choose life.”
In November, a dear friend of mine died suddenly and this sent my life into a tail spin. I was able to “be there” for the family in many ways, but at the end of each tiring and heart wrenching day, all I wanted was to check out with a glass of wine and some stupid TV so i didn’t have to feel. This was my go to escape.
I am not against an occasion deliberate choice to escape but this dragged on until I realized that Christmas was closing in fast and I had a lot to do. Ahhh… a new form of escapism- busyness!! ( for all the right reasons of course!) All the while the whispering of the Holy One to rest, and be still and grieve with Him allowing Him to comfort me, to remind me the Immanuel- God with us made all the difference and could carry me through this difficult time far better than another glass of wine, TV dramas and sleepless nights. sometimes I heeded the Still Small Voice and was gathered into my Father’s arms, and found comfort and rest.
But far too often, I forged ahead – on my own strength and without applying any of the wisdom that Nouwen invites us to. January dawned and I wasn’t ready for the New Year, or inclined to make any resolutions. I was angry, sad, overwhelmed and weary… and at the end of myself, I finally bowed my head, hit my knees and cried out for the ever present help that I had not availed myself to until now.
God met me in my brokenness as I decided to choose life and blessing by no longer struggling to manage all of this hurt and fear on my own strength. I am a work in progress, each day struggling to choose wisely and not live by the volatility of my feeling, but rather from the truth that I know- especially when my feelings threaten to overwhelm me and take up far too much space in my mind and heart. Truth comes quietly… reminding me to cling to what I know, to be renewed in my mind by the Word of God and allow my feelings to submit to my will. This requires a daily choice, moment by moment sometimes…
For those who walk with me, bear with me through my faltering steps, love and challenge me along the way, I am immensely grateful and rich indeed!